teacher reporting and rewards

We created a form for teachers to jot down when they see students using the strategies we are working on with each lesson. Being in the classroom every other week means that we miss out on so much that happens. We are also offering teachers rewards for completing their challenges. It seemed only fair since students are rewarded for completing classroom challenges. The teachers have been getting a real kick out of picking rewards out of our goodie bag 🙂 And, I do think it is important to note that 7 teachers completed the lesson 1 teacher challenge. 13 completed the lesson 2 challenge. I expect that # to keep increasing, especially since the students are asking their teachers if they are doing their challenges. Awesome!

We are also giving out Superflex awards to classes that do exceptional work. I went into 3 classrooms this week with the awards sent from Superflex for them. They were all so excited to get the recognition. I do need to be more careful when filling out the awards. My daughter came into my home office asking why I had awards from Superflex…oops! I explained they were extra copies and that the *actual* awards written and sent from Superflex came via email. Whew.

This week I also got to give out a Superflex award to a teacher assistant in 2nd grade. She wrote a daily account for 2 weeks when students were thinking about others and working to defeat Rock Brain. I was amazed at the detail of her notes! Check out her Superflex reward –

We are also giving handouts to teachers after each lesson with tips for how to prompt and reinforce concepts taught. We are also putting these handouts in mailboxes of others at the school – administration, specials teachers, etc. And, guess what…they are reading the handouts! I saw the principal in the hallway last week, and she told me about an example of when she was in a 1st grade class earlier in the week. She overheard a student ask another student for an eraser. The response was no. At that point the principal asked what a “thinking about others” kid would do? The student looked at her kind of confused…how did she know about that?? and promptly shared his eraser with the student that asked 🙂 I have said it many times, but will say it again…the more adults that use the language, the greater impact we will have!


Thoughts from Ginny

It is still quite apparent that the students are trying to meet their classroom challenges and love giving me updates in the hall. Lost of high fives and thumbs up these days. However, as observed in a third grade class this week, meeting classroom challenges and changing the thinking and behavior of our students are really two different things. Specific targeted behaviors guide the students to meet their classroom challenge, while daily teacher and peer interactions seem to still be guided by old ways of thinking, i.e, “thinking about me.”  On this particular day, the students were noisily transitioning while their teacher stood holding her jaw, repeating her directions “one more time.” The teacher had told her students that she had a painful toothache, for which she had missed work the previous day. There was absolutely no empathy going on nor any recognition that empathy was in order. I asked if I could speak to the class. I asked for some problem solving help. I began by describing students in a class at our school who had heard the Superflex lessons, but were not listening to their teacher, were requiring her to repeat directions 4 and 5 times, etc. I then asked if they knew what the problem might be. They quickly raised their hands to tell me that these students were not being “thinking about others” kids. I agreed. I said that the teacher really liked to teach, but was admittedly very tired at the end of each day and while she liked each of her students, she was not enjoying her school day. I went on to say that these students were doing all of these things even while their teacher was hurting, at which point some of the students began to catch on. I went on to say that the teacher had a really bad toothache. I then asked the students to raise their hands if they thought they might be the students I was talking about. All raised their hands. I then went on to remind the students that it is not enough to meet their classroom challenges each week, they had to practice being “thinking about others” kids all the time – it would not come naturally. It is our job to take care of others around us – especially if we know that someone may be hurting or not feeling well. Everyone got back to work, but when asked to quietly line up for recess, these same students disregarded their teacher’s direction, and began to talk and slowly get to the line – as their teacher held her jaw and quietly contemplated whether it was worth another painful verbal direction or not. We talked again and some sat down to see if they could line up differently, showing that they wanted to take care of their teacher and thinking about others by getting out to recess in a timely manner.

As I thought throughout that day, while I felt incredibly sad that the students did not see their teacher was hurting, did not listen when she said she was hurting, did not make the connection that if she was hurting then an extra effort may be in order to take care of her, and then did not adjust their behavior even after a clear discussion of what needed to change – I had to remind myself that this way of thinking is a process. AND, that these are children who are by nature “thinking about me” kids. It will take reminders, practice, and continually making verbal connections between what they are doing and how their behaviors are affecting the feelings and thoughts of others. We, as social thinking adults, must “think out loud” for our students so that they “get it” and understand how much social thinking is done in a day. As adults, we use social thinking all of the time, without even knowing that is what we are doing. We are constantly regulating and adjusting what we say and do to make sure that those we are with feel comfortable with us and have good thoughts about us. So, as we seek to change our students way of thinking, we must become more aware of our own thinking and take the time to help them see what thoughts guide our own words and behavior. We must get our students to “think about thinking” as a part of this process – something that most adults do not do.

Again, I have to remind myself that this is a process and we are in the midst of figuring out what works and how best to develop students who truly think about others to guide their words and behavior. So, while the classroom challenge is the best way to help the students practice and work toward a reward, to move the students beyond the classroom challenge will take quite a bit more practice on their part and patience on ours. This is perhaps our classroom challenge.

So, Kristan and I will go once again into the classes next week for Lesson 4 – defeating Brain Eater and Body Snatcher. One more step in helping our students become “thinking about others” kids and helping us learn what it takes to make this happen.

Hey – I posted first this week – amazing :o).

Week 3 Reflections from Ginny

We began the very important work this week of helping students understand how what they say and do affects the feelings and thoughts of others. I see this as the heart of Teach Social First: Everything we say and do affects the thoughts and feelings of others. It is our job to say and do things that cause others to feel comfortable and have good thoughts about us.

When asked to use their social detective skills while listening to David Goes to School, the students readily identified his unexpected behaviors and could give examples of what the other children thought about David when he did what was unexpected. It was harder, however, for the students to identify the feelings of the pictured children. When asked what the children were feeling as a result of David’s behavior, our students frequently stated what the children would be thinking. When the thought was validated and then followed with, “If they are thinking that, then how would they be feeling?”, our students were usually able to separate the two and identify a corresponding feeling. The other consistent result was an oversimplification of the feelings. Feelings were often labeled as sad, mad, or upset.

The good news in these results is that it does seem that our students, K-3rd grade, demonstrated an ability to identify the perspective of someone else. They also were able to readily identify feelings when asked to consider how they had felt in a similar situation. In regard to feelings and the task as a whole, it is apparent that in addition to showing them that everything we say and do affects the thoughts and feelings of others, more needs to be done in teaching our students what to pay attention to identify the feelings and thoughts of others, such as facial expressions, personal connections, and checking what they already know. I would also add that in today’s fast paced, black and white techno-driven interactions (texting, facebook, email, tweeting), our students’ ability to identify the feelings and thoughts of others will not only decrease, but the opportunities to observe the reactions of others will decrease. The development of critical interpersonal skills for social success may be missed altogether. One more real reason to “teach” social first.

In today’s world of multitasking and technology, it becomes more important, I think, for adults to model attentive listening and face-to-face responsiveness to our students. When we teach the importance of keeping our body and brain in the group, we as adults also need to model this. When our students see us doing other things as we listen to them, we not only send mixed messages about the importance of keeping our body and brain the group, we also miss opportunities to point the connections between what we say and do and how others are feeling and thinking. In a fast-paced world that increasingly disregards the feelings and thoughts of others, we must take every opportunity to demonstrate that we care what our students are feeling and thinking, so that they will someday care as well.

I have been convicted of this as well as a parent and employee. I often multitask for all the “right” reasons, but I am not sending the “right” message to my own children and co-workers. The “right” message would be:

  • “You are important. What I have to do can wait.”
  • “What you have to say is important.”
  • “I want to know what you are thinking and how you are feeling.”
  • “I have time for you. You are not bothering me.”

If we want our world to be a place where the thoughts and feelings of others are not only regarded but valued, we must look for ways to model and teach this whenever possible. 

Classroom challenge: lesson 3

The classroom challenge for lesson 3 is for students to show their teachers they are keeping their brains and bodies in the group.

We left a visual in each classroom to remind students how they can show their teachers their brains and bodies are in the group –

We decided to break it down into specific ways students could keep their brains and bodies in the group. It takes using your eyes, ears, body, brain, hands and mouth. Each time students are caught keeping their brains and bodies in the group, they earn a check in the specified area. For example, if the class keeps hands to self during an activity, they would earn a check in the hands area.  Once all the areas are checked, the class earns a reward! Check it out –

 We had a really nice conversation with a teacher in 3rd grade around rewards. Her concern was the time needed to do a reward activity and how it would take away from the very important instructional time. This is a real concern, more so for the upper grades where EOGs become a big part of instructional time. We took a few minutes to brainstorm with the teacher to find something that would be meaningful for her class, and ended up coming up with some ways the class could be rewarded by doing something to help the school. One way would be for her students to help maintain the 2 Superflex bulletin boards in the school. The students seemed really excited about that option, so I hope it works out.

Fridays are Ginny’s blogging days, so I am looking forward to her reflections from lesson 3 🙂


David Goes to School

We are using the book David Goes to School to introduce unexpected behaviors. We gave students magnifying glasses during the reading of the book. The goal: to be good social detectives and discover when David was demonstrating unexpected behaviors. Our instructions were for students to raise the magnifying glasses when they saw unexpected behaviors. But, as a way to continue to reinforce the concept of being a flexible thinker, we added that students might not get the color magnifying glass they wanted and we had to collect them when we were done, so they should be on the look out for Rock Brain. He can get people stuck on wanting just one color and maybe want them to keep the magnifying glass after we were done.

The students were so quick to raise the magnifying glasses when they saw unexpected behaviors. Good job being social detectives! Check it out.

The other way that we are using the magnifying glasses: to reinforce expected behaviors. It was expected that the students raise the magnifying glasses when they saw an unexpected behavior, but also to put it down afterwards. We are incorporating some reinforcement of “brain and body in the group” with the classroom challenge. More on that later this week.

lesson 3: being part of a group (and a proud moment)

Lesson 3 is about how to be a part of the group. Topics discussed: expected and unexpected behaviors (removes the good and bad from the behavior) and how to keep your brain and body in the group.

We created a social behavior map to use after reading the book David Goes to School by, David Shannon. The map is modeled after the one on the Social Thinking website, but we added some visuals and a specific category for what others think when you demonstrate expected and unexpected behaviors.

I read the book and then we selected 3 examples for the students to be good social detectives and help us map it out. Below is one of the examples:

First, we asked students what David did that was unexpected. In our first class, a student quickly raised her hand and said that David was being loud in the library. Another student also had his hand raised (and this student also happens to be my son, full disclosure 🙂 He said there was another unexpected behavior in the picture. Ginny and I looked at the picture again and asked what it was…David was not taking care of the library books. This would not be what Ms. Minor (school media specialist) would expect. We quickly praised him for being such a good social detective and finding something that we had not even seen. Yes, this was a proud mom moment for sure!

I also want to talk about the mapping process. An example poster is below:

 Students could quickly identify the unexpected behavior, and often went straight to what the people in the group were thinking. The middle column (how others in the group felt) was more challenging. It was helpful to prompt students with the thinking examples to ask them what they would think in the situation. We hope to continue to use our social behavior map in later lessons.

One last thought from today about brains and bodies in the group. Ginny modeled for the students how to keep their bodies in the group (bodies facing forward, eyes on the speaker, etc). Then I reminded students that sometimes their bodies might be in the group, but their brains might not be in the group. This did not make them bad students, instead it meant they should turn off that distracting thought and get their brains back in the group. In one of the classes, a student raised his hand and shared the following: “my brain was not in the group just now. I was playing with the eraser in my desk and not listening. But, I realized it and put the eraser away.” Wow, lots of praise went out to that student and he earned his class the first check in the classroom challenge for this lesson. More about the classroom challenge in another post.

So, that got to be longer than I expected. But, so many good things are happening, and I want to capture and reflect on as much as possible. Stay tuned 🙂


Catching Up and Thinking Back with Ginny

As one can see, I am behind in posting. Life is more than crowded these days and my moments to post are consistently replaced with day-to-day work and home responsibilities. I am determined to get to a point where posting becomes a part of my week, as I know all too well that my memory will fail me if I do not record my thoughts along the way of this amazing Teach Social First journey. I am very grateful that Kristan has already figured this out and does a great job of keeping the “journey” alive. Thanks Kristan!

Now, thinking back:
1. I am a social thinker. I continuously think about others and consider their perspectives. I have been blessed with both the desire and natural ability to think about others. What I am realizing now is that this is not necessarily the case for those around me. While most adults do understand how and why to be considerate of others, the connection of their actions and words to the feelings and thoughts of others is somewhat short circuited. The general thought process is that we are responsible for what we say and do, not for the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others. Social thinking challenges this. We can determine what someone thinks and feels about us by what we say and do. Our words and actions can cause good and bad thoughts and feelings in others and towards us. Now while we are not responsible for how a person reacts, the words they use, or the intensity of both, we are responsible for choosing words and actions that make others feel comfortable around us and to feel good about themselves. It is never our job to make others feel uncomfortable. In today’s typically fast-paced day, most of us think, feel, speak and act and move on. Little time is available or given to truly think about how our words and actions “land” on those around us, let alone to think through how to encourage others and validate their thoughts and feelings. We simply must strive to instill this thought process in our students and all adults with whom our students interact. I must also remind myself that this is NOT a new way of thinking for me and is as natural as my next breath. Because of this, I am able to weave this process and mindset into everything I do and every encounter I have with children and adults. It will take time for teachers and assistants to do the same. It is a NEW way of thinking for them and they will need consistent modeling from Kristan and I, as well as our patience, as they learn how to use social thinking techniques in their classrooms. My hope is that over time, this new way of thinking will become a positive and natural occurrence in the classrooms at Perry Harrison. The staff clearly wants to learn and is as open as I could ever hope for in their willingness to support the lessons Kristan and I present. An amazing place to be – figuratively and literally.

2. As the Superflex News Reporter was gathering information for his next Superflex report on the “Thinking About Others” classroom challenge, a 1st grade student asked what they were supposed to do now since they had filled in all of the letters of the challenge and earned their classroom reward, “Do we keep being ‘thinking about others’ kids?” BINGO! This question took me to this: a) YES, that is what this all about! b) kids will need more than a week or two to become thinking about others kids (I really had already made a smart guess about this!), c) these same kids will continue to need rewards in place to help them practice thinking about others, d) teachers will need structured ways to keep reminding their students to think about others, e) teachers and students will continue to see ‘proof’ that thinking about others is a good thing, f) even though “thinking about others” was our first concept and lesson, it will be the central theme for Teach Social First, g) WOW, this student was actually already thinking about what to do with this whole “thinking about others” thing.

3. Following our lesson introducing Superflex and the Unthinkables, a mother stopped to speak with me at my morning crosswalk duty. She wanted me to know that her son had really listened to the lesson because when he was having a difficult time getting “stuck” with something the night before, he said, “Rock Brain is getting me stuck. I have got to defeat him. ” He then got a sticky note, wrote Rock Brain, crossed the words out and stuck it to his forehead :o). Good news for all: it worked!

 4. One of our 3rd grade teachers, Heather Bearman (who was instrumental in advocating to get Superflex into the classrooms this year) also stopped to speak me with me at my morning crosswalk duty this past week. She is also a parent of a kindergartener who is receiving the teach Social First lessons this year. As she held her son’s hand, Heather told me how her son had been at his ice hockey practice the night before and the players had thrown out T-shirts. One of them landed close to her son. He picked it up and handed it to a friend sitting nearby (who he knew had not gotten a T-shirt), saying, “I got a T-shirt last week. You can have this one.”  Heather quickly told her son that what he did was a big “thinking about others” kid thing to do and that she was very proud of him. Her son smiled as she told me the story and I said, “Superflex and I are also very proud of you. What you did was a very big deal. I hope that you will remember how good it felt for both you and your friend, and be able to think about others again, even when it may be hard to do.” As, Mrs. Bearman walked away, she smiled and said, “I am glad to be seeing this from the parent perspective. It makes me happy to see this as a mom.” I smiled and thought, ‘me, too.’

5. Our assessment for the 3 pilot first grades involves 6 problem solving probes. We will be comparing the following with the pre- and post-probes: students’ ability to identify the problem, solve the problem and justify their solution to the problem. As I was loading the audios onto my laptop, I contemplated how problem solving would accurately assess all that we are trying to do with Teach Social First. Of course, I knew that we had to choose one facet to assess and we had decided problem solving would be an area we thought we could assess with some accuracy. It suddenly occurred to me that “thinking about others” is a constant problem solving process: social problem solving. What is going on? What are others saying or getting ready to do? What do I know about the people I am with right now? What should I say or do to show that I am thinking about others? How do I want them to feel or think about me? What adjustments do I need to make if someone is feeling badly about me? How can I change what others think about me? How can I make others want me to be a part of their group? If we truly are “thinking about others” kids/people, we are constantly volleying these thoughts and considerations in our minds. We are problem solving every situation to determine what we should say and do to keep things going well for ourselves and everyone else in the group. Now, this takes a great deal of work and time, and one can see why many of us opt out and go with the first thought that pops into our heads. Thus Teach Social First – we have to teach others to want to think about others, how to do it, and learn to incorporate problem solving before the social problem, not after.

6. Morning crosswalk duty is a great way to start someone’s day. A kind word or smile could be just what someone needs to manage the school day ahead. It also is a great way to get Superflex updates :o)!

7. Students and teachers will learn how to keep their bodies and brains in the group next week.

I love doing these lessons and by the end of the week, Kristan and I are a well-oiled machine – teaching, laughing, getting into character, having fun, and creating at least 30 minutes of positive ways to want to think about others!

more positive feedback and a personal goal

Last week was our “off week” in the classrooms. The “off week” gives teachers some time to reinforce concepts we introduce and complete the classroom challenges. This meant that I was not on campus that much, but when I was around I got to hear some good things.

1) Students would wave to me in the hallway and report on how they were doing with the classroom challenges, completely unprompted.

2) I got to do some prompting and reinforcing of skills myself. A 3rd grade boy stopped the class in the hallway so that I could get to Ginny’s room. I made a point to go and find his teacher and say what a nice “thinking about others” thing he did. His beaming smile with this praise was priceless.

3) Parents on the soccer field are talking about Teach Social First. I got to hear it first hand today at one of the games. A boy on the Youth 8 team had gotten frustrated at last week’s practice, so frustrated that he ended up in tears and forgot his water bottle. A teammate went back for his water bottle and gave it to him as he was recovering in his mom’s van. He said to his friend “that was really being a thinking about others kid. Thanks.” For me, these moments are so much more important than any quantitative data. They are the real life scenarios where our hard work is paying off!

My personal goal is around my previous role in the school district. For the past 7 years, I served as the district behavior specialist. My position did not survive the major budget cuts required to keep as many teachers in the classroom as possible. I helped teachers develop behavior plans for students with Autism, ADHD, anxiety disorders, etc.  I am finding it hard not to check in on my former students this year and wanting to help the new students that are in clear need of behavioral assistance. One student really stuck out in one of the classrooms the other week. I felt so distracted by his behavior that it was honestly hard for me to focus on the lesson. I kept thinking about strategies that might help him be more successful. I need to keep reminding myself that I am no longer in that role, but my “want to fix it” hat keeps sneaking out every now and then. I will say that I am much happier with my current role. I am much less stressed, do much less driving (I would sometimes be at 3 schools in one day, most 30-45 mins from each other) and feel overall a lot happier. That old saying “things happen for a reason” is so true. I just need to work on being ok with my new role.

We are back in the classroom for lesson 3 next week. The topic: Being part of a group. We will talk about expected and unexpected behaviors and how to keep brains and bodies in the group.


reflections from lesson 2

We decided to do a review at the start of each lesson. Basically, a news reporter from the Superflex News comes in the class and asks students for examples of how they have been “Thinking About Others” kids (or whatever skill they have been working on with the previous lesson) for a newspaper article. I am the lucky one that gets to be the Superflex News Reporter. I got a reporter hat and promptly put PRESS on the side. I realized after I got questions like: “Do we press your hat?” and “What does p-r-e-s-s spell?” that students were not getting my prop.

So, I decided to make my reporter hat more general. Check out my new reporter hat and notepad.

After I thought about it more, my Press hat was a little outdated for 2011. Good thing I am a flexible thinker 🙂

Another great thing that happened this week…we got our first gift! The idea of Teach Social First came from work done in Ms. Lemons’ first grade class last year (that story is for another post). When we went to Ms. Lemons’ class for lesson 2, she had gotten us a book from the Book Fair. How sweet!

Lastly, Ginny updated our bulletin board with new tips from Superflex. We are getting into a good groove this school year!

Superflex and the Team of Unthinkables

Ginny and I are reading the Superflex and the Team of Unthinkables comic book as our way of introducing how to be a flexible thinker. I am having so much fun being Aiden (AKA Superflex).

Here is a video clip of our book reading.

It really is easier to introduce the concepts we want students to work on when they can learn about them via book characters.

More about lesson 2 later this week 🙂